Ubuntu 10.04 (courtesy of Ars Technica)

Dear Ubuntu: I Have Some Concerns

Dear Ubuntu:

For the last couple years, life has been good.  Every time I’ve shown you to a friend or family member, they’ve compared you to what they’re familiar with – Windows XP or Vista, mostly – and by comparison you’ve looked brilliant.  Yeah, your ugly brown color scheme was a bit off-putting at first, but once people saw how secure, simple, and reliable you were, the response was almost universally positive.

But recently, things have changed.  Your last version – 9.10 – was an unmitigated disaster.  At first I thought I was the only user having issues with it (random freezes and reboots), but guess what?  Tons of people had a horrible experience with you.  My comment box is overflowing with comment after comment after comment about how you made their life difficult with your 9.10 release, and thirty seconds on any major search engine will show loads more comments to this same effect.

Normally all this would be semi-acceptable since you still provide a great alternative to Vista.

….but wait.  That’s not actually relevant.  See, my friends and family aren’t comparing you to Vista any longer – they’re comparing you to Windows 7.

And frankly, Windows 7 is a great operating system.

Out of the box, Windows 7 is very pretty.  It makes your brown ugliness look worse than ever.  I realize that your strange obsession with brown is changing with your next release (thank God), but I have to wonder – is it changing enough?

Ubuntu 10.04 (courtesy of Ars Technica)
Ubuntu 10.04 (courtesy of Ars Technica)
Windows 7 (courtesy of http://www.thinkpads.com/tag/windows-7/page/2/)
Windows 7 (courtesy of http://www.thinkpads.com/tag/windows-7/page/2/)

Windows 7 still makes you look ridiculous.  Sorry, but it’s true.

But you know what – let’s forget about appearances.  After all, I can always spend five or six hours (per computer) meticulously changing you into something beautiful.  It’s not like I don’t have anything better to do with my time.  </sarcasm>

Let’s talk instead about something you’ve ALWAYS excelled at: security.  One of my favorite things to tell new Ubuntu users is that dealing with an intrusive virus scanner is a thing of the past.  Linux distros don’t require virus scanners, and if a person wants to use one “just in case”, ClamAV won’t bother ’em at all.

People are always amazed by this, especially after dealing with the likes of Norton or McAfee or AVG.  Even the good free scanners (Avast, for example) can be surprisingly pesky.

But you know what, Ubuntu?  This isn’t as true as it used to be.  Yes, you remain pleasantly secure, but guess what – Windows 7 is quite a bit better in this regard.  Microsoft even provides their own security solution – and it’s surprisingly good.  It integrates very nicely with Windows 7 and is less resource-intensive than many of its competitors.  I barely notice it’s there.

Then there are the other steps Microsoft is taking to improve its overall security model.  They’re doing good work, Ubuntu – and they deserve credit for it.  Yes, you and other Linux distros may still have the edge in total system security, but to a casual user Windows 7 does a bang-up job in this regard.

But wait, you say – there’s still the issue of stability.  Haven’t you always excelled when it comes to stability, especially when compared to Windows?

As I’ve mentioned, I’m not sure you provide a better alternative at this point.  In my experience, Windows 7 is remarkably solid.  You, my friend, have not been.  I sincerely hope 10.04 is more stable than 9.10 – and I imagine it will be – but you know what?  The bar’s been raised.  We can continue to mock Vista for the unstable mess that it was, but when it comes to Windows 7, the average user isn’t complaining about stability.  Even corporations are convinced that it’s time to upgrade from XP. This is a good thing, Ubuntu.

True, it would be better if these corporations were upgrading to you, but frankly – I’m not sure you’re ready for widespread commercial use.  Those 9.10 stability problems still linger in my mind…

Then there are the other things Windows 7 has improved.  Windows Media Player is no longer an abomination.  It’s actually kind of nice.  Rhythmbox, on the other hand, has a long way to go before it can truly compete with the all-in-one solutions offered by software like WMP or iTunes.  IE9 looks like it could actually be a competitive browser.  I still love my Firefox, but I grow increasingly frustrated with how poorly the Linux version of Firefox compares to the Windows version.  Then there’s the frustration of being forced to wait for a distro upgrade in order to use the latest version of Firefox.  Yes, I know I can manually configure obscure repositories – and I always do this – but it’s hard to convince my friends and family that it’s worth the extra effort.  “But in Windows, Firefox just does the update for me!”

They’re not wrong.

I’m sorry this letter has turned into a rant, Ubuntu.  I didn’t intend for it to turn out like this.

But frankly, I’m concerned.

There’s one more thing I need to bring up, Ubuntu.  Something I’ve discussed in the past.

It’s called “diplomacy.”  And frankly, you suck at it.

Six months ago I wrote about three key relationships you needed to mend if you want to be successful.  I still think those relationships are in dire need of improvement, but I realize now that I left the most important group off that list.

Your developers.

Many individuals have discussedat lengththe meltdown between various members of the Ubuntu community due to your “interesting” placement of 10.04’s window buttons.  So many discussions have taken place on this that there’s no way in hell I’m going to open that can of worms again.

But what I will say is this: you need to seriously reevaluate the message you send to the free workforce that makes Ubuntu possible.

Let me quote Fewt on the matter:

As you know the change of the title bar buttons from right to left coming in Lucid 10.04 has caused quite a stir across the internets, and has taken focus in a single bug report.  Ultimately it really is trivial to change them back to the right side; a simple gconf oneliner will move them, but there is a greater issue here.

That issue is .. community.  Thousands of users across the internet are voting overwhelmingly against this change, but unfortunately it seems that it like all other Ubuntu bugs have fallen on deaf ears.  Users reporting that they do not want the change are being told that they aren’t going to get a choice or a vote in the decision, and if they don’t like it they can fix it themselves, or they can find another distribution.

What’s worse though is that Ubuntu’s #1 is personally posting in bug threads with an utterly atrocious level of condescending attitude; degrading the very users that this product is supposed to capture.  Users that care about Linux.  Questions have been asked over and over, and evidence has been provided that it is such a bad idea and rather than listening to the people that have supported Ubuntu over the years, we receive statements like “we are not voting on design decisions” and “you don’t get to second-guess their decisions”.

Ubuntu is supposed to be a meritocracy where an elite group of people make decisions based on technical ability.  Where is this technical ability that they speak of though?  How this process seems to really work is that Mark says “make it so” and his drones say “yes master”.  That’s not a meritocracy, not at all.

The end result (like many of their other internally created components ie – Computer Janitor) is a half baked implementation of a theme that looks worse than the theme it is replacing.

I choose to vote with my feet, and maybe I’ll even host a burn your Ubuntu merchandise day since I have quite a bit of it myself.  None of it will ever see the light of day again anyway.  My talent and knowledge is far more valuable elsewhere contributing to projects that actually improve the open source community.

The comments on that thread are also interesting.  Again, I’m not going to debate who is/isn’t right in this case (though it’s hard to argue with Fewt’s POV), but let me say that the damage this issue has done to Ubuntu’s reputation among developers is extensive.  QUITE extensive.

Because if there’s anything a developer hates, it’s having their input ignored without offering a legitimate counterargument.  If a FOSS developer wanted to be treated like that, they’d go work for one of your far-more-successful competitors and make a lot more money for their efforts.

Ubuntu may not be a democracy.  That’s fine.  But when free labor is involved, the free laborers must be given some element of control – otherwise, they are absolutely justified in investing their time and energy elsewhere.

I still have hope for you, Ubuntu.  I like the against-all-odds spirit you espouse.  I believe consumers everywhere could benefit from a strong third-party OS offering, and I still think you are capable of merging your corporate and FOSS interests into a cohesive whole.

But I have concerns, Ubuntu.  I have concerns with your design, your stability, your community, your leadership, and your roadmap for the future.  10.04 looks to have some interesting changes – but are they enough to make you a viable alternative to Windows 7?

Ask me in a month, I guess.



(Author’s Note: Let me clearly state that I love FOSS and I love Linux.  However, I’m starting to have serious doubts about whether or not Ubuntu is a good representative for Linux and FOSS as a whole.  To anyone who visits – I’m currently looking for a great KDE distro NOT based off Ubuntu.  Any suggestions based on personal experience?)

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88 thoughts on “Dear Ubuntu: I Have Some Concerns”

  1. None of the real linux users I know were ever bothered by the looks because there are a lot of choices. They want a usable toolbox wich doesnt require serialnumbers and extreme payments. If you have a lot of old computers in your house what does that cost you having a windows7 + office ? Using illegal software makes you in 60% of the cases part of a botnet.
    The path that ubuntu wants to go isnt strange either. Why look like windows if you can look like a beautiful mac? Hey, you even got a choice. Now try to change your beloved windows 7, I can do it in 30 seconds by using apt.
    Security ? Did you c what secret tools microsoft have to open your w7 box ? They are on the internet now and what else we don’t know.
    Why do we have to buy all those functions we never use? I’ve seen a lot of people at home using microsoft office and only using 1% of what it is capable of. They produce 5 letters a year with it. On bol.com office proffessional € 599! And we all want that because the neighbours have it.
    I am surprised by this ubuntu version. Running it on a netbook, server and desktop. Even the beta 1 was stable enough for me. I am going to buy from the ubuntu store just because they gave me a very usefull OS and want to stimulate that.
    Media player ? I can run youtube straight from totem. Now you try this with mediaplayer.
    And I do have a technet subscription from Microsoft wich I pay myself.

    1. None of the real linux users I know were ever bothered by the looks because there are a lot of choices.

      And that’s exactly why many Linux distros continue to look like shit. The excuse of “you can change it if you want” doesn’t justify poor initial selections. If that were the case, car companies would only sell gray cars. After all – you could always change it yourself.

      Security ? Did you c what secret tools microsoft have to open your w7 box ? They are on the internet now and what else we don’t know.

      Now you’re just being ridiculous. Do you REALLY believe that Microsoft employees thousands of hackers to remotely access everything on your machine? Take off the tinfoil hat, buddy.

      I’ve seen a lot of people at home using microsoft office and only using 1% of what it is capable of.

      I have no idea why you’re talking about MS Office. OpenOffice.org is a fine program, and it works on both Linux and Windows.

      Media player ? I can run youtube straight from totem. Now you try this with mediaplayer.

      Um, I can run youtube straight from FIREFOX. Thanks, though.

    2. Everybody has different ideas on what a desktop should look like. I can make Ubuntu look just like Windows 7, XP or Mac in a lot shorter time than 5 or 6 hours.

      1. Yes, Ron – YOU can. But for a new user? Getting Gnome to look “just like” Windows 7 involves a lot of steps:

        1) Find a good theme, install a good theme
        2) Install Emerald (since Metacity can’t properly render most Win7-ish themes)
        3) Find matching fonts, install matching fonts, customize font size to match
        4) Decide on a widget manager
        5) Install and configure widgets
        6) Install an automated background switcher
        7) Customize the panel
        8) (Optional for Win7, but worth mentioning) Install and configure a dock

        Yes, changing a theme is easy. But making a Gnome desktop “beautiful”…? It can easily become a 5-6 hour headache.

  2. Installed pclinuxos-kde-2010.iso on 1G USB with unetbootin, installed on HDD in 10 minutes, fiddled around with style and colors, used addlocale and getopenoffice and now, happy playing with my localized KDE4 box.
    Nice article btw, it shows why I am not personally using Buntu (still supporting Dutch Buntu users, it is Linux after all ;) ). Happy readings, Ed.

  3. I have used Debian and Ubuntu almost exclusively for the past 10 years. After running betas of Lucid Lynx for a while and finding them quite lacking I am switching to openSUSE tonight. Want to join me? openSUSE 11.2 has deep KDE integration of Firefox and OpenOffice that looks really impressive. And it is reportedly very stable.

    I have previously found openSUSE to be a little less slick than Kubuntu, but at this point I have decided that it is just not worth it to keep struggling with a distro that never has taken quality seriously, as evidenced by ignoring reported regressions, merging kernel patches strongly cautioned against by the kernel developers and shipping crappy and dangerous home-built software.

    I have 19 bugs (that I submitted or contributed to) on my Launchpad bug page right now, going back more than four years. The majority are marked as “Confirmed” or “Triaged”. Not a single one has been fixed.

    1. Scratch the last paragraph — I was looking at the wrong bug listing. Actually I have contributed to 40 bug reports; 10 of which are listed as fixed. Sorry.

      1. Sorry to hear about your crappy *buntu experience. A couple nights ago I tried both openSUSE and PCLinuxOS, and while both were good I ended up sticking with PCLinuxOS. The rolling updates are a huge perk IMO!

  4. I’m indifferent to Ubuntu, never used it, but I’ll give you a few quick reflections:

    – looks: Windows 7 looks OK, but it’s a totally subjective matter. Actually my view is that Windows 7 has a quite boring look, with serious issues about coherency even between MS own utilities. MS has also for some reason adopted Apples love for tiny-little-I’m-an-eagle-fonts, which might look sleek but as practical as non-braille books for blind.

    – security: we might be fooled to think it’s so much more secure, but a simple reason for some advantages is that after 10 years we finally have a Windows system where the distinction between user and administrator works pretty well. Beyond the hype there’s few evidence of Windows 7 being as secure as proclaimed.

    I understand the positive reactions towards Windows 7 from a Windows perspective. XP couldn’t even handle basic hard drive standards without loading drivers during installation, and compared to Windows 7 it was as default pretty useless beyond being able to use mouse and keyboard (hopefully). However I can’t see what Windows 7 has to offer as a surplus to just being somehow up-to-date with current technology.

    Media Player and choice of browser is a subject not very relevant. There are a good selection of choices for both platforms, and we’ll never reach a consensus about the “best” choice.

    I have nothing to add about diplomacy, since I don’t follow and hence hear close to nothing about what’s happening in the Ubuntu community. It’s nevertheless a bit ironic that this is included in an article comparing Ubuntu to Microsoft Windows 7. To compete with MS on MS’ own level you have to forget diplomacy, so maybe the possibility of even discussing Ubuntu’s lack of diplomacy, if that’s true, looks pretty healthy.

  5. Not sure what this is about, really.

    – You don’t like the look. It doesn’t take 5 hours to change it, does it. And if it does, it does. You save it in your config. You re-use it on other machines. Or you can publish it and it could be helpful to other people who just got started with Linux. You know. Contributing doesn’t have to be about kernel hacking.
    – Ubuntu is secure but the security model of Windows 7 has improved. That’s good for everybody, isn’t it?
    – Do you really want a Linux version of iTunes? What does iTunes do that is so completely different from let’s say RB or the 20 million other media players that exist for Linux? Except for putting files where you don’t want them and sucking all the memory out of your machine.
    – Firefox is not developed by Ubuntu. I must agree that it has become quite heavy on the resources. There are alternatives though. Many, many, many alternatives. I’ve been working a lot with Chromium, lately. I’ve also used uzbl. Then there’s Midori, Konqueror, surf. Dozens.
    But Firefox is still a lightyear ahead of IE.

    Maybe it’s time to go back to Windows. It is quite good, compared to Vista. If you want to use Windows, why don’t you use Windows. Ubuntu isn’t going to call you on your cell phone to try to change your mind.

    Or you could simply try out other distro’s. There are many distro’s (some people think there are too many) and some of them are simply better than Ubuntu.
    It all depends what you want. Do you want a good system or do you want a system that is being used by corporations and has market share?
    This kind of rants: there are many of them but they are not useful except for yourself. Not for Linux, not for Ubuntu, not for anybody in the whole Linux world. And move the buttons already.

    Next to that, you are a programmer. Program, then.
    Make Linux better instead of talking about how it should be made better. Do that for a year or five, then read rants like these. Or write other rants, about how it is like to work on a kernel mod or a GTK app or a package manager or a shell script and how other people rant about those on their blogs because it’s in the wrong color or something.

    Or don’t.

    1. “Next to that, you are a programmer. Program, then. Make Linux better instead of talking about how it should be made better.”

      Seriously? That’s your answer? I’ve never understood why Linux users post that comment. Do you expect me to say “wow, great idea – I’ll go build my own distro tonight!”

      Linux would be lightyears further ahead if it had more honest critics and less fanboys willing to write off its many faults just because it’s free. You make Linux better your way, I’ll make it better my way.

      And BTW – I think you’d be surprised by how many positive changes happen to various Linux distros thanks to blog posts like this.

  6. Perhaps try sidux a KDE centric distro, “unstable” Debian that Ubuntu is really based on. Though unfortunately with Ubuntu the packages are forked and often incompatible with each frantic high speed new release, all over the shop like—-the proverbial.
    And as you say Ubuntu developers are also stuck up and invisible, never taking any notice of forums nor users. Just too big for their own boots I think.

    Sidux is a very pretty KDE 4.3, and a rolling release model with upgrade warnings on the forum if a bad bug comes up until it is fixed.
    sidux forums are helpful with developers actually making an appearance, but beware they do not tolerate what they consider fools well.
    Also so far Debian Multimedia does not go on holidays like medibuntu has at present.
    El Zorro

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, El Zorro. I looked at sidux and has sorely tempted by it, but PCLinuxOS has worked great for me so far. If it fails, I may give sidux a try. Thanks again!

      1. The problem with sidux is being able to stay on the “bleeding” edge. Being the sid branch of Debian, sidux uses its own method of updates. They warn against using the standard repos and update methods.

        If you want stability, PCLOS is a very good choice. That, or RedHat.

  7. I subscribe most of what you say, but I would add more;

    Initial feel is good on Ubuntu, however after a while I find myself fighting it a bit too much.

    Many flaws are due to Gnome too and their insistence to continuous useless tampering of the interface.

    For every new feature in Gnome, the developers hide a couple more.

    The result and feeling is that everything feels shaky on Ubuntu, the desktop, and the tools it bundles.

    Not just the gui decisions are questionable, IMHO the removal of Pidgin was a bad one too.

    I’m not sure either that removing Gimp from the default install is a good move. What I often heard was, “Ubuntu includes a full image editor instead a crappy tool like windows, I do not know how to use it, but it is a good program”…

    I think that Linux distros are obsessed with appealing a mythical newbie that doesn’t exist, and in the process are screwing those who care about the platform.

    I see more and more people buying macs or returning to Windows 7 for desktop work.

    1. I think that Linux distros are obsessed with appealing a mythical newbie that doesn’t exist, and in the process are screwing those who care about the platform.

      Great point, Sanders. I don’t know why a distro has to be “for newbies” or “for experts.” Can’t there be a happy medium?

      I too am tired of Gnome’s silly decision-making. I’ve switched to KDE (via PCLinuxOS) and couldn’t be happier. Not only are there options for changing just about everything, but the UI actually makes sense and doesn’t look like it was designed for preschool kids.

    2. In my opinion Gnome developers could continue to hide some more things. E.g look at the right button menu of the trash. It contains several inactive greyed out menu items that never ever are active. The should be removed instead of greyed out.

      Look at how they handle hidden folders, first of all why don’t they use the .hidden feature to turn /boot, /dev, /etc, /lib, /lost+found, /mnt, /opt, /proc, /root, /sbin, /selinux, /srv, /sys,/usr,/var into hidden files, thereby giving more focus on folders that are useful to normal users such as /home, /media, /tmp.

      If ordirnary users need to change things in /etc the problem is not that they can’t see the /etc folder unless “Show hidden files” is turned on, the problem is that there should be some kind of gui function to configure it without opening /etc.

      Speaking of hidden folders, why isnt the users Desktop hidden. As it is now the unsuspecting user could look at a file in his desktop and then go into nautilus and discover that he had a duplicate in his ~/Desktop folder. If he is unlucky he might even delete that duplicate to save space, not knowing that it is the very same file.
      So Naturally the ~/Desktop folder should be a hidden folder by default.

      The Trash already is a hidden folder, there is no logical reason that this desing should not apply to the Desktop as well.

      That way you would have a desktop where you have placed a file cabinet and a trash can, not as now where you have a Desktop on which you have a file cabinet in which you store your desktop.

      As for the brown Ubuntu desktop, I must say, that it was much better than the new one, and when it comes to stability Ubuntu is no better than Fedora, but in Fedora you at least get the latest and the greatest of everything. Ubuntu did a great job in simplifying the Linux desktop, but it have not managed to keep its edge compared to other distros over time.

  8. Some years ago I got introduced to Linux, specifically Ubuntu as my wife was becoming a raving lunatic dealing with the s-l-o-w performance of XP. All she wanted was for the laptop to work.
    At this point, she (a total computer novice) very happy with Ubuntu’s rock steady 9.04, but I must agree that 9.10 was an unmitigated disaster, especially its Windows integration (Wubi) that seemed to clobber the Grub bot sector regularly. Have rebuilt my machine 4 (!!) times, and it happened again! Many of my friends, whom I had introduced to Ubuntu, now swear at it (and me), yet Wubi was never fixed.
    As for Lucid (10.04), at Beta2 it still has serious issues with my IBM/Lenovo Tr60 laptop, so I am not too optimistic, but AVOID 9.10 AT ALL COST!
    As for moving the control buttons from right to left (Apple style), that is cute, but pretty stupid.
    Mark Shuttleworth, are you listening (please!!)??

    1. Sorry to hear about your woes, Bjorn. You might try setting up PCLinuxOS and seeing what you think. So far it’s been rock-solid for me, and I’m finding KDE much more enjoyable than Gnome.

      Best of luck to you!

  9. I agree with Stephen. I am not sure what all this is about…Ubuntu is good at what it sets out to be. I have never had any real problems with it. The new release is good. I haven’t had any problems with the buttons. I see them on the left hand side and I click. Not rock science. Most of the time my curser is in the middle to the left hand side…too much Ubuntu bashing lately. Don’t use it if you don’t like it. Simple as that….

    1. Don’t use it if you don’t like it.

      Or here’s an idea – how about improving it so more people like to use it. Wow! Crazy thought!

      I’m envious of your positive experiences with Ubuntu, but by your reasoning (“I have never had any real problems with it”) it makes perfect sense that 90% of the world still uses Windows.

      1. Don’t use it if you don’t like isn’t a bad idea, it ubuntu loses considerable marketshare due to their inability to listen to the userbase and insistence on making bad decisions just because mr. shuttleworth says so, they might just change their ways.

  10. I agree with basically everything you said… I’m a non-developer user that started out with Ubuntu Hardy, have been unhappy with the incredibly crashing-prone slowish Karmic, and was already wary of the new changes before the anti-community attitude appeared.

    I’m the sort of user that Ubuntu supposedly was aiming for — enough skills/intelligence to track down solutions if needed, but with interests & talents that aren’t connected to coding/tweaking the OS. I guess that Shuttleworth & team assumed the folks like me would either believe Ubuntu is the only thing out there, or that we’d be too scared to give alternatives a serious try if we weren’t happy with it any more…

    It’s basically the same attitude that most abusive partners have, as a friend pointed out when I was in a really bad relationship… They subtly convince you that you’re darn lucky to have them — then when their inconsiderate behavior hurts you, they fake a “so leave, your loss not mine” attitude. They only care or make an effort if they truly think they’ll lose the relationship, in which case they may beat you “for your own good”…

    I’m not saying that any of the people involved would ever be abusive in a relationship, just pointing out the strong parallel in how we’re being treated… Because I think that regardless of whether the ‘relationship’ is romantic or with a distro, the only thing we really can do is leave for one that we can live happily with — the “leave if you don’t like it” types never change.

    1. Ooo, I love the bad relationship analogy. That’s genius!

      Thanks for the awesome comment. As I’ve mentioned above, you might consider trying PCLinuxOS – I switched to it after writing this article and am loving it. It’s gotten me excited about using Linux again.

  11. Oh, and a side note before I forget… A few of the other Linux bloggers I read have mentioned in the last 6 months that a default brand-new Ubuntu install is now a lot slower & more resource-hungry than virtually any other major distro. So chances are that regardless of which one you pick, you’ll get a nicer experience than with Kubuntu.

    PS As somebody else pointed out to me: it seems odd that the Mac-like buttons are appearing in the first version X with a code-name fitting right into Apple’s ‘large wild feline’ scheme… Wonder how long they’ve had it planned?

  12. It seems you haven’t read the right places: W7 is no safer than Vista. w7 is vista in disguise. Faster computers today just make this version of Vista look less clumsy. w7 is still full of critical holes, please do your research.

    1. I have no idea why you’d waste your time leaving a pointless comment. I’ve done my homework – if you want to make an alternate case, cite some sources. A poorly worded comment doesn’t convince anyone of anything.

  13. I’ve also made the switch to PCLinuxOS Gnome Edition. I’m still too used to Gnome to switch to KDE but still considering the change.

    It is a great OS!

    I’m happy with the change after using Ubuntu for 3 years.

  14. Odd. I’ve not been fond of the last few ubuntu releases, but quite like this one. Installed, removed mono and other shit i don’t use, add the things i do, update, and had no probs whatsoever. No problem with the look either. It’s impossible to please everyone all of the time, and i’m seeing nothing like the complaints of previous releases. PCLOS is nice. Ubuntu is not looking shabby right now either. Installed Lucid on my netbook (posting from it now), my Acer 3610 laptop (old, but still good), and my main desktop. Not had a single issue yet. Wireless, printing, samba sharing, not a problem. Not one. I’ve had complaints about past releases, but this time they seem to have done it fairly right. Everything has just worked, no hacking needed. I’m actually pleased, for the first time in a while.

    That abortion called Win 7 can die in a fire tho. Am no MS-hater by any stretch, but I hardly find W7 attractive, or easy to use. It has never been able to handle my soundcard, or ethernet connection. None of this is exotic by any means, all standard hardware. Huge install footprint, and what to show for it? Bugger-all. Add to that the complete change in how to do things, and no thanks, you can keep it. Some like it, fine, I am not one of those.

    I have my XP-licensed machines with installs for testing out stuff i need for friends, or letting a friend game on, but my needs are well met with Linux, be it Ubuntu, PCLOS, or other. But mostly Ubuntu Lucid right now. I’m fine with that. I don’t get all the hate. Obviously some have a different experience to me. I was expecting another disappointment, but it’s not been the case. Everything works, so i’m happy. That’s all we need really, for our machines to work for us, not the other way around. :)


    1. For the record, it’s really hard to take you seriously when you say “am no MS-hater by any stretch”, but your previous sentence reads “that abortion called Win 7 can die in a fire.”

  15. PCLinuxOS is the easiest, fastest, and best version of Linux I’ve ever tried. Until I found PCLinuxOS, I was distro hopping all over the place. Those days are history.

    Now, I’m running PCLinuxOS on all but two of my computers. WinXP still resides on them. One is a computer in the dining room that guests use (behind a firewall), and the other is one of my desktop systems that is inconveniently located in my bedroom. I keep WinXP on there due to some easy video software I have, for when I want to do some video processing.

    I’m currently running:

    PCLinuxOS 2009 KDE 3.5.10
    PCLinuxOS 2010 KDE 4.4.3
    PCLinuxOS 2009 KDE 4.3.4
    PCLinuxOS 2009 XFCE 4.6.1
    PCLinuxOS Phoenix (XFCE) 2010 (on 3 computers)

    My days of fighting virii, spyware, malware, and all the other crap that infests the Windows community are over. I’ve not ran anti-virus software on my computers in the last 3 years, thanks to Linux … except in my VirtualBox copies of WinXP (I wouldn’t think of even attempting to connect a Windows box to the ‘net without anti-virus software in place). In fact, I d/l it on my Linux machines, and transfer it to my WinXP copies running in the virtual machine.

    Tanner, I’m happy that you have discovered PCLinuxOS, and you already have had a taste of what keeps us regulars there.

  16. Honestly, I don’t really care if more people start to use Linux. If you want your hand held and don’t want to think when using a computer, pay some money for a supported distro, or a proprietary OS. Do that, or honestly, stop whining. No one is forcing you to use a free (as in monetary cost) OS! For goodness sake stop complaining pansies and pay for something if you’re not happy.

    1. You may not care if more people use Linux, but you can bet Mark Shuttleworth cares. He’s not pouring all that money into Canonical as a “donation.”

      But name-calling really helps your point. Way to be mature.

  17. I personally recommend leaving Ubuntu for Debian Testing.
    It’s more reliable than Ubugtu or Unstable, but when it’s not frozen, it’s a ‘rolling release’.
    Of course, I have pinning set up for Unstable and Experimental, because I’m hardcore like that.
    Sadly, if you choose to install a Desktop Environment, even on a netinstall, you get GNOME. No choices are given. Is it fairly trivial to remedy that? Yes.
    apt-get update; apt-get install kde
    But between that sort of issue and the learning curve of the Debian Installer…
    It’s something I’d recommend setting up for a less experienced user, walking them through the process if they’re willing to learn.

  18. Use Ubuntu if you’re interested in free software, which I find a nice and legitimate reason.

    If you seek a desktop system of decent quality, OS X or Windows 7 are far, far better choices.

    It’s great that we have a choice, isn’t it?

  19. Actually I do prefer the Ubuntu look. At first W7 might look cooler etc. But in the end the Gnome Ubuntu theme is easier on the eyes.

  20. Windows 7 a great operating system? WTF! Windows 7 sucks.
    I don’t agree with many of your points.
    This new theme for example is undoubtedly much better that the one in karmic.

    Ubuntu might as well be losing some edge over others systems, but it is still great and we always have forks, like Mint.

    1. Andrea I agree with you totally. When I got my refurbed recertified Toshiba laptop this past Friday I removed Windows 7 completely and installed Ultimate Edition 2.6-a fancy version based off of Ubuntu 10.04.
      There’s always options within Linux and OSS, and they’re much better than any Microsoft or Apple OS.

      1. …I’m not even sure what to say to comments like this. Perhaps if you gave some facts – ANY facts – we could have a discussion?

  21. I would recommend openSUSE if you are looking for a great KDE flavor. I have used this flavor for a longtime now. Very stable…. RPM Hell is a thing of the past. Unfortunately many in the FOSS community doesn’t support SUSE since the agreement with Microsoft. However, it’s a wise business decision to make sure Linux will work well with MS products and vice versa. Since most companies have a mixed environment of hardware/software. People always disregard MS but they were able to set a standard which everyone did benefit in regards to Hardware. If people remember it was IBM=MCA MS=ISA. Because of MS people had clone computers not just IBM computers. Since ISA won it opened the market to everyone. So, please remember standards are good but competition is what makes things better. Like Windows 7 they looked at Linux and are learning how to make the MS platform better. Sorry for the long reply..

    1. Thanks for the comment, C Diesel. Novell does a ton of good for the FOSS world, and I wish people would grow up and stop demonizing them because of their work with Microsoft.

      I’m currently evaluating OpenSuse 11.2 on an older PC, but am waiting for the official 11.3 release before really delving into it.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  22. > I’m currently looking for a great KDE distro NOT based off Ubuntu. Any suggestions based on personal experience?”

    Yep – PCLinuxOS.

  23. I will give you my thoughts on your post. The choice of GUI beauty is so personal that your complaints about Ubuntu’s theme are pure baloney.

    The Windows file manager defaults to idiotic drive views. The Gnome file manager even with it’s issues is much quicker to drill down to the necessary directory. And defaults to your important personal directory’s. It is true that Windows start menu does have your personal directory’s within easy reach. But Nautilus is better because easy directory drill down plus user directory’s all in one.

    Ubuntu does have problems with excessive password prompts due to the separation between Policykit and gksu. But with time this will become a integrated system. Just like how Vista took time to deal with excessive password prompts. However Windows 7 dealt with the excessive password prompts by reducing the security of the system. Ubuntu will never reduce the password prompts by reducing the security, instead they will seek a integrated solution and yes it may take time but so what, stuff does not happen overnight.

    Supposed instability and general goofy issues with Ubuntu is highly dependent upon many variable and complex relationships between hardware and software. No operating system is immune to the biology of computers. And much supposed widespread problems with operating systems is anecdotal. It is extremely rare to have scientific studies of particular issues and rarer still for the studies to be peer reviewed. Yes sometimes problems are widespread and sometimes supposedly widespread issues are not really widespread, only appearing that way due to media exposure. No operating system is immune to these issues and no OS has the upper hand in this regard. Hell even Apple in their closed environment suffer this issue when you would think they would not.

    Rhythmbox is designed to be a simple player. It is cleanly laid out and the button are nice and big and widely separated. It is very easy to navigate the UI as well as the preferences. The options are quite easy to understand do to their simple operation. Rhythmbox is very quick to start up and quick to index music. It is very much to the point of being a music player and nothing else. One could even argue the the inclusion of the Ubuntu music store is a degradation of the UI experience. Luckily so far the Ubuntu music store seems very simple to navigate. By comparison iTunes and Songbird are slow to start and iTunes in particular has an extremely messy UI and is very system invasive almost like malware. Now Windows media player is very nice, super quick to start and operate and navigate. Good job Microsoft on a super great program, media player.

    The only people who bitch about being able to upgrade to the latest binary software are pussy geeks who don’t know how to compile from src and are not really geeks at all but stupid whiners. If you want the latest Linux software and you choose to use PPA and src and mix and match versions like Debian Sid and stable you have no right complain. Suck it up you fake geeks. I can tell you most users of Linux can handle problems on their own, the rest frankly wouldn’t even notice they were using older software and I’m sure most office workers dread upgrades due to fears of relearning UI all over again.

    On the issue of diplomacy you are spot on and I wholeheartedly agree with you. Ubuntu indeed has a communication and customer support issue.

    I think we can all agree that the operating systems we criticize the most, is the ones we love because we want them to succeed and prosper.

    Thank you for a very interesting posting. It was a good read and is a valuable contributer to the Linux ecosystem.

    Sincerely Nathaniel Homier.

    1. Thanks for stopping in, Nathaniel. It will always be difficult to discuss aesthetics of OSes since – as you say – so much depends on personal preference. Where this is a personal blog, I think it’s absolutely justified for me to share my feelings on Ubuntu’s appearance. Yes, some may disagree, but if you survey the internet at large, there is a huge amount of disappointment with Ubuntu’s recent overhaul. See the many opinions shared by Ars Technica commenters, for example.

      File managers are an interesting debate. Few average users spend much time inside a file manager, so it’s doubtful that the average user cares much for differences. Windows may default to a drive view you don’t like – but why should your favorite drive view be standard for everyone? Linux also suffers from having file open/save dialogs that differ greatly from program to program. OOo has a different one from GIMP which has one quite different from Nautilus (and so forth). I hate that.

      I’ve said nothing about Ubuntu’s constant password prompts; not sure why that came up.

      “No operating system is immune to the biology of computers.” – This is an excellent quote, and one I heartily agree with. I also agree with the unfairness that Linux must be expected to perform flawlessly on any combination of hardware whereas most people only interact with Windows when it comes pre-installed. However, as I’ve written in countless other articles on this site, Ubuntu and other distros must work to become MORE stable over time – not less stable. That’s my primary complaint with Ubuntu.

      This Rhythmbox rant sums up the problems with Rhythmbox. It is an unacceptably bad piece of software, and there is no escaping that.

      “I think we can all agree that the operating systems we criticize the most, is the ones we love because we want them to succeed and prosper.”

      Absolutely, my friend. Absolutely. :)

      Thanks for your comments.

  24. “A great KDE distro NOT based off Ubuntu”?

    Mandriva, in my opinion the cleanest distro out there.
    and yes, urpmi is just as good than apt-get (especially since they introduce the notion of metapackage)

    they’re just bad at creating buzz and PR.

    1. Seconded. I used PCLOS for a couple of years, but as they decided to stick with KDE 3.5 a bit longer than most, I jumped ship to its’ big brother Mandriva and haven’t looked back.

      Excellent config tools and a software stack that’s bang up to date. “Easy URPMI” gives you instant access to the best ‘non-free’ stuff and is trivial to setup.

      Urpmi > Apt in my opinion, as you’re able to search for individual libraries and get a result…unlike apt. Nice.

  25. One more thing for the Ubuntu basher-did you know that you can put a KDE desktop on just about any Linux OS?

    1. Wow, amazing insight! You mean that “K” in “Kubuntu” represents KDE?

      WTF. If you consider this “Ubuntu bashing”, you need to re-read the article.

  26. One thing you’re not remembering is that between 8.04 and 10.04 none of the Ubuntu releases are stable. They are comparable to the unstable or testing branches of Debian while the LTS versions are much alike Debian stable. So what did you expect? To be solid rock? I’m sorry, but no It shouldn’t be solid rock because it’s not meant to be.

    1. Wrong. See https://wiki.ubuntu.com/LTS. Nowhere does Canonical claim that non-LTS releases are meant to be unstable test-releases. LTS primarily refers to the length of time that security updates will be backported.

      And spend some time reading up on 10.04. There have been NUMEROUS stability problems. (I’ll write more about this later in the week.)

    1. Cognitive dissonance: noun, A condition of conflict or anxiety resulting from inconsistency between one’s beliefs and one’s actions.

      Look big words up before you use them. Your comment is nonsensical.

  27. Man, that image of “Windows 7” is actually Windows Vista. Check out the Vista-style networking icon in the system tray, as well as the Windows Defender icon. The taskbar is smaller and rounded and I can see no evidence of Jump Lists in the start menu.

    Now, of course, Vista still looks better than Ubuntu (personal preference), but please at least make this correction.


    1. Dammit – good catch, Lacane. I just grabbed the first Win7 screenshot that popped up in an image search, and I should have been more careful.

      I’ve updated the image. This one appears to be a legitimate Win7 screenshot… ;)

  28. @Gajo – You are grossly misinformed.

    “MS: Well, they’re very different. To me building Ubuntu for Linux enthusiasts remains a really important job and I don’t want to take anybody off that. But if I think, of the team that we started Ubuntu with, that team continues really to focus and work to that mission – make it great, free software power user’s desktop, every six months that’s stable and maintained.” – http://www.tuxradar.com/content/shuttleworth-jaunty-netbooks-and-more

    @ANDREA R – In your opinion, in the opinion of 100,000,000 other people not so much.

    @Tanner – This is a great writeup on very valid issues. TY.

    1. Thanks for stopping in, Fewt. Hope you don’t mind me quoting you at length. :) I hope everyone takes the time to stop by your site after reading about your experience.

  29. I wondered when the day would come when I’d have to accuse people of being ‘Linux schills’, but it looks like that day is today:

    The author clearly describes some extremely valid issues which are going to utterly destroy Ubuntu’s credibility if unaddressed, and I’m seeing a disturbingly large number of people resorting to straw man arguments or worse… are you people TRYING to make it look like Canonical hires people to troll critics?

    I’m not suggesting they actually do that, but some of these replies remind me of MS schills’ responses to criticisms of Win XP.

    1. Indeed. You should see the comments I’ve thrown into the void (any number of “fuck you”, “I’m gonna find you and hurt you”, “u r dum”, etc.)

      Guess the Ubuntu fanboys are out in force. Ironically, most my threatening comments came on Mother’s Day. lol

      1. There is so much hatred against anyone that posts anything that doesn’t kiss the feet of the all mighty Ubuntu.

        I had to turn off anonymous posting, and start moderating comments due to the death threats, and personal attacks. I see that I wasn’t alone though.

        Can’t tell you how many threats I had received. It’s amazing how crazy people get over software. ;)

        It’s a sad state of the world when someone thinks it’s appropriate to tell you to go kill yourself because you talked about a software bug on a blog. LOL

      2. Same thing here – I never had to moderate comments until I started taking on FOSS topics (particularly Ubuntu). I’ve heard the same thing said by multiple other FOSS writers, so don’t take it too personally…

        And can I just say that I’d rather deal with 100 Microsoft zealots than 1 FOSS nutjob. The MS guys rarely threaten – they just resort to “suck it, M$ is WAY RICHER THAN YOU, BITCHEZ!!” I can live with that. :D

  30. You are correct Tanner that this is a rant. As such, I find your post to be entirely devoid of persusasive arguments and logical thought structure. I’ve read your feelings, to be sure, but not much else more concrete than that.

    I’m a new Ubuntu user, and find it to be much better than Windows. Can you argue with my sentiment? No, of course not. And I can’t argue against yours either. But the lack of specific issues and abudance of generalizations makes it that much easier to dismiss this whole thing.

    1. 1) When did didactic blog entries start requiring a formal outline and blatantly rendered arguments?

      2) Have you ever thought that perhaps my goal is not to dissuade new Ubuntu users? Read the post again. Or, in case that doesn’t work, here’s the point: Ubuntu has made a name for itself by repeated comparisons to XP and Vista – comparisons that make Ubuntu look quite good. Windows 7 has raised the bar. Ubuntu needs to work harder to stay competitive.

      3) You’ve linked your name to a copywriting site, yet you misspelled multiple words in your comment (persuasive, abundance) and few, if any, of your commas are placed correctly. One example: “find it to be much better than Windows” is not a complete sentence, so the preceding comma is incorrect.

      4) It’s dangerous to proffer advice when your own POV is so drastically weakened by inconsistency.

      (Apologies for the snark, but you invite it with faulty observations like “entirely devoid of persusasive [sic] arguments and logical thought structure.”)

      1. The phrase “find it to be much better than Windows” is a valid construction when followed by a comma; if it had been followed by a semicolon, it would only have been valid if it had been intended as a command. “[I order you to] find it to be much better than Windows.”

        As an additional predicate clause sharing the same subject as the first predicate, the comma as used is optional (as a separator of complex constructions) but not incorrect.

      2. Thanks for the insight, Kelli. However, I believe my reasoning stands because the the two predicates do not share the same subject (“I”). If the sentence were written as…

        “I’m a new Ubuntu user, and I find it to be much better than Windows”

        …use of a comma would be correct. However, because a subject is not explicitly stated with each verb, the comma should be omitted, as in…

        “I’m a new Ubuntu user and find it to be much better than Windows.”

        As it currently appears, the lack of multiple independent clauses makes use of the comma incorrect.

        Do you concur…? :)

      3. No, I don’t concur. I agree that the comma was excessive but not, strictly speaking, incorrect.

        “I drove my car all the way to the way to the Pacific from my home in central Kansas, and parked it in the parking garage under the boardwalk at Pismo Beach.” In this case, the comma serves the same purpose as the one in question. It is more appropriate here due to the length of the first predicate. After such a short construction as “…am a new Ubuntu user,” its use is better characterized as ‘unwarranted’ than ‘incorrect.’

        In the final analysis, this may be one of those topics where the issue is more of style than of mechanics.

        I must now apologize for my unfortunate substitution of “followed by” for “following” twice in my original post. It seems inevitable that in any critical discussion of grammar or spelling, at least one of the critical messages must contain at least one significant error of its own. :)

        I am currently considering a more substantive message regarding the actual topic of your essay. I hope to post it in the near future. It will be considerably less formal than this exchange has been. ;)

      4. Fair enough, Kelli. Fair enough. Your point is valid. I would probably substitute “ill-advised” for “unwarranted,” and were I an English professor I’d mark the original usage in red… but I’m forced to concede that it appears to be more a matter of style than mechanics.

        Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the article.

  31. You’ve got quite a few points here that I would agree with, including that of stability; I had to re-install 9.10 several times, and even then I’ve had countless problems with gnome. I use DWM now though, and it really kills everything in terms of stability and performance. I used arch a while back, but apt is still my preferred package manager.

    1. Indeed, Gnome appears to be part of the problem. I’ve never taken a look at DWM – sounds like an interesting minimalist option. Thanks for the comment!

  32. Hi Tanner,

    I subscribe 100% what you say either about windows 7 and Ubuntu but Imho ubuntu is not, and never was “a good representative for Linux and FOSS as a whole”. Maybe it was the most notice for those who for years used windows 7 but (and I’m not denying they the credits they deserve for make it simpler for a “common” user) they had more visibility, either through media, the free shipping, the impulse that some people (with resources) gave to the project.

    I tried lots distros through the years, still do, and not only distros, OSs too and when it comes to personal use (and excluding some like vista :)) its a matter of taste, of how long you want to spend initially, how is your “feelings” to it :). Personally I really like archlinux. I think they did an amazing job. Its fast, secure, reliable, with a clear view where to go and not deviating much from their philosophy.

    Thank you for the good article.


    1. Great observations, Hugo. I completely agree. OS choice is as personal as taste preferences or car preferences or VG console preferences – there are a lot of factors, and some are a better fit than others.

      I’ve been wanting to take a look at Arch for awhile. Thanks for mentioning it, and thanks for the kind comments.

  33. I am very happy with Ubuntu.

    My first distro was WinLinux 2000. Never could get it to work very well. Moved through Turbolinux, Storm, and many other flavors until I was hooked by Mandrake. Mandrake made Linux easy and intuitive. I switched to Ubuntu many releases ago because I was looking for an alternative to rpm based distros. I haven’t looked back. Ubuntu and Gnome just work for me. I find both to be very intuitive and task oriented. I don’t play with settings or change the look and feel. Well, I did change the background pic to a picture of my kids. I work full-time during the day and help my wife manage her online business at night. I need to get things done and Ubuntu + Gnome helps me get my work done with minimum fuss.

    I’m really sorry you are unhappy with Ubuntu. I have to admit that I didn’t read your entire rant. It is a little lengthy. Maybe you should look for another distro. There are plenty to choose from.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Jeff. I’m happy to hear about your great experience with Ubuntu. If you’d read the entire article… :p …you’d see that I too have high hopes for Ubuntu. The worst part, for me, was having it get better and better over multiple releases only to crash and burn with the last two.

      I have chosen another distro, and am preparing an article on it. I hope it doesn’t end up being too long for you. ;)

      Thanks for stopping in.

  34. I agree with tanner..

    ubuntu does need alot of work, especially if it wants to be compared to W7. My dad has it on his laptop and every time i use it. WOW i dont believe its made by microsoft. So simple to use and looks good.

    On the other hand, the looks of ubuntu is a complete shit piece. Yes you can customize how you want which i adore but it goes to a certain extent with alot of time. (6-7 hours should not be spent on making ur desktop look good) Let the user have more ways to customize. I really want transparency. Another thing that annoys me with ubuntu is too much clutter and its not as simple as OS X and W7. It could have been sorted out ages ago.

    Ubuntu, we all love you but you need to step it up.

    sorry for my shit grammer and english :D

  35. It has been a long time since somebody wrote a comment here.
    We are in 2012 now; I see Ubuntu degrading; coming April (12.04), I have to find me a better distro. Going back to windows as many here say they will isn’t an option for me. It is the community that makes Linux the best. It is the commitment that makes Linux distros work. It is the people who make Linux a special experience. Windows just want to have you to buy virus-scanners, hard-drive cleaners, all sorts of “repairing-tools”. All non-free.

    This is wat I like the most: “do not earn your money WITH an OS but ON an OS. The last including the then-thousands free available software for us all to use.

    Let us make a better world; I assure you that will not happen using Windows. That is why Canonical is going down the tube too. It’s about money these days,that does not belong in my (and a lot of other people their) world. And YES I contribute to all the software I use.Again it should not be just about money, unfortunately that IS what Windows is all about.
    Why did nobody implement this thought?

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